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[whitespace] Pot Plant Waiting to Exhale: Medical marijuana cultivators can breathe a little easier now that local cultivator Kim Kleiner has been found 'not guilty' under the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215).


Straight Dope

Back in 1997, an off-duty sheriff's deputy's car struck motorcyclist Kim Kleiner. As a result, Kleiner suffered traumatic arthritis. When other drugs failed to relieve the subsequent chronic pain, Kleiner got a "recommendation" (that's what prescriptions for marijuana are called) from a Berkeley doctor.

Under the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (a.k.a. Proposition 215), patients can grow marijuana for their own use with a doctor's recommendation. But many jurisdictions, including Santa Cruz County, have no guidelines for how many plants a person can legally grow. Kleiner, who lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains, researched nearby municipalities and found that Oakland's limit is 144 plants. So Kleiner figured at 14 plants he should be safe. Wrong. Tipped off, authorities seized all 14 plants last August, claiming that Kleiner was growing more then he needs. (Kleiner smokes about a gram a day, or an ounce a month)

As the first medical marijuana cultivation case in Santa Cruz and surrounding counties, Kleiner's trial was precedent setting. Medical marijuana supporters held their breath for two weeks, which is how long it took until a county judge found Kleiner "not guilty."

"I decided to fight it because I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me," Kleiner says. "I thought I was adhering to the law, then suddenly I found out that I was breaking it."

Sergeant James Hart, supervisor for the county's Marijuana Enforcement Team, said in court he believed it was "a felony to cultivate marijuana whether you have a prescription or not." Hart, who said he doesn't believe that marijuana has any medicinal value, has confiscated plants from growers with recommendations "about 20 times." Hart said that he and his team try to determine the degree of a person's illness and if they have a "legitimate need" for the drug. Hart also testified that he is skeptical when he sees recommendations from certain physicians, including Kleiner's doctor, Todd Mikuriya.

"The truth is some of these cops don't like the Compassionate Use Act," says Kleiner's attorney, Ben Rice. "The Narcotics Officers Association doesn't believe there is any medical condition that warrants the use of medical marijuana. It's outrageous that officers are going around making decisions like they're trained physicians."

"I usually don't agree with much of what Ben Rice says," Santa Cruz County Sheriff Mark Tracy told Nüz, "but in this case he has a point. This is a medical question best answered through the state health department."

The Good Times April Fools Massacre

Nüz never likes to hear that newspaper people have gotten the chop, even if they are part of the competition. So we were sorry to hear that 'Good Times' had laid off five key players on March 30. Looking at the job titles of the fallen five--art director, associate editor, office manager, courier, food critic--Nüz began to wonder what GT's management was thinking. A newspaper without people to answer phones, pick up photos, organize art or write about food or (gasp!) news, isn't a newspaper. It's an ad vehicle.

Of course, some Cruzers would say that GT has never really been a "newspaper." Founder Jay Shore sold the self-described entertainment guide to a New Zealand-based firm, part owned by Rupert Murdoch. The paper was then sold to an arm of the U.S. Media Group headed by the late Eugene Mace. Now, a group known as Pacific Sierra Publishing Inc. that's headed by Tony Allegretti, appears to be in charge. Allegretti is CEO of Independent Media Group Inc., a Midwestern firm with 21 papers in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan.

All this makes Nüz wonder if the cold winds of change are blowing straight off Lake Michigan. GT publisher Deb Geissler did not return our calls, but rumors are flying. Insiders say that when the Scotch tape ran out one week it was impossible to reorder and that quotas are so high the sales team are unable to earn commission. Still, random layoffs and firings were the hallmark of former publisher, Carol Atkinson, and March 30 was the last day of her budget. Were these "people first" cuts Atkinson's last unholy will and testament?

Rent Rage

Renters sick of overpaying for stucco shoe boxes should come blow their horns at the Santa Cruz Action Network's Rent Rage Rally on Sunday (April 8). Planned in response to the plight of Beach Flats residents at 204 Riverside, whose rents doubled while repairs and code violations went unheeded, the rally is open to any Cruzers angered by out-of-control rent levels, says SCAN member Tony Madrigal.

"Most tenants at 204 Riverside bus tables, clean houses and cook meals at restaurants. If we want these people to do these jobs for us, we need to provide them with affordable housing," says Madrigal, He adds that the idea of rent control excites Flats residents. "The Santa Cruz City Council needs to see a broad-based pro-rent control movement before it will support the idea," Madrigal says. The event takes place 1-5pm at Beach Flats Park (corner of Liebrandt and Raymond). Call SCAN at 458.9425.

Kelp Help

Last chance to say your piece before the Fish and Game Commission implements the state's first Kelp Management Plan (see Nüz 6/28/00). Until now there have been no legal limits on how much kelp can be harvested or on the number of kelp cutting licenses issued. Last year, the Monterey City Council tried to protect the Ed Ricketts Marine Park from harvesting, but was successfully sued by the California Kelp Company.

"It's as if logging were just becoming a big industry, and the chain saws were zeroing in on Yosemite or Yellowstone," says Michelle Newman, a diver, sailor and member of Friends of Ed Ricketts Park. Vicki Nichols, director of policy and research at Save Our Shores, says that SOS hopes that "no more then 50 percent of all kelp beds will be open to harvesters."

The last public hearing before the FGC finalizes the plan (which will be in place for the next five years) is April 6, 8am, at the Hilton on Aguajito Road, Monterey.

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From the April 4-11, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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